This route is a gem! A real classic with a variety of fun moves on each pitch and a fabulous crux. You will have to dangle from some good jams that are not too sharp... but you still may want to tape up for friction, if for no other reason.
The crux roof of this route appears as the big roof just below the second-from-the-left summit on the West Ridge photo, attached below. This summit peak is the next one up from Long John Tower.
To approach Sooberb, go uphill on the West Ridge past the popular Unsaid area, past the Long John Tower and almost too the massive buttress and roof of Practice Climb 101. Look up about 50 feet off of the ground to see a huge left-leaning 'cat claw' flake pointing up and to the left. This is known as "The Sick Flake," but seems rather steady to me. Scramble up from the trail to a good ledge and set a belay below the left side of the Sick Flake.
P1: Climb up to and into the left side [of] the sick flake. Getting protection can be awkward, but is not dangerous. Getting into and out of the cramped moves on or in the flake's left side may in fact be the real crux (5.8+?). After you get past the flake the real fun begins. Move up into an overhanging crack & left-facing dihedral with great holds and solid gear to reach a good ledge above (5.9-?) and belay there, or continue on to pitch 2.
P2: Move out left on the ledge a few feet above a tree and climb up and left over a vertical section onto a slab and follow this up and left, heading for a broken ledge below a massive roof. Belay here and do not continue onward (drag & ledge-fall potential). This pitch is mostly quite easy.
P3: Spot the obvious hand-to-fist crack that splits the huge roof. Climb up this crux section and pull to the lip (5.10c, 3" cam) and through it. Small-handed people will likely finding these jams insecure and the moves will feel considerably more difficult. From above the roof, climb easy, low-angle rock up and slightly left to a good belay ledge.
Updated as per Byron Murray regarding new rap anchors: To descend, downclimb to the south to a deep V-Slot continue down to the large Juniper Trees. Scramble just North of the large Juniper trees to find a camouflaged double bolt anchor. Rap number 2 is at the top of P1 of Sooberb. This rap will take you to a bench that you can walk off to the North if you angle the rope left (North). (60 meter rope, 2 rappels.)
Last pitch well worth the ho-hum of the first two pitches. I can't deny or confirm the grading, I took a few hangs on the crux. Pro is OK, some small tricky placements abound early in the roof (i.e. a small cam and small nut). A #4.5 Camalot would be tits for the wide section of the crux, just lob it in there and smile. I lacked such and did not smile. I disagree with the write up about big hands being an advantage. I have large hands and did almost no jamming, there are some [subtle] and hard to find holds at the crux which is really the meat and potatoes of this route. Beware, the initial section of the roof has some small loose blocks one of which I kicked off. If powerhouse roofs in spectacular positions are your thing this baby is the ticket.
I did this in '78 as a youth, and went back yesterday. I failed at the lip, but it was an adventure.
The first two pitches make a very nice climb. I don't know why Rossiter says it's a little junky. At Sick Flake, don't take the description so literally. Climbing the inside of the left side of the flake looks nasty. You can climb the outside face and angle left to the left edge. So you are still "climbing the left side". The first pitch is long at about 150 feet. If you're just doing the first two pitches, you can climb straight up over a small overhang with a nice move and up to the rappel anchors.
We belayed on the face below the rotten red band. The gear is better, and it allows more rope to be out for the crux. When I first saw the roof, it looked so hard and poorly protected that I considered the line further left. But I checked out the wide crack, and it wasn't so bad. Tony must be way better at jamming. I didn't even see any possibility of jamming until the lip. There are some cool trick moves to get to the lip. After that I haven't a clue, but I'll go back.
For gear I used a blue/#3 Camalot at the bottom of the crack. It's not needed for safety, but it keeps the rope out of your way. Then a nut and small cam (blue Alien), green/#0.75 Camalot (bomber), red/#1 Camalot at the lip. Maybe the #4.5 Camalot mentioned above goes in the V corner above the lip?
If you're rappeling with a single rope, make sure it's 60m+. On the second rappel, you have to swing left on the lower slabs.
I don't remember any 5.10 except for the roof, which is tricky and burly, and hard to place gear (standard Eldo stuff, really). Anybody who can lead or even follow the roof I don't think will have any problem on any other section of the route (but I have huge hands, I can't speak for people with tiny hands).
I jammed the roof, but I also used holds. My partner jammed the roof both times I've done it. I have small hands and had to go from some rattly-jams. My first partner for my first go at this did the same sequence and called them "solid." He had bigger hands.
Big hands advantage/small hands disadvantage? It depends upon your point of view. With small hands I found it to be 5.10c, so I figured if it was easier with big hands that was an advantage. I guess the semantic change to express that small hands were a disadvantage could be in order, but I can't differentiate on that anymore.
Hmm, maybe there is more than one way to pull the roof ... I do not remember doing any hand jams at the crux roof (nor any big obvious crack at the crux). But it was several years ago and maybe my memory is not to be trusted. Rossiter lists several variations over the roof and maybe we were on one of those. I have only followed the crux pitch and it seemed way desperate, but I didn't fall. As a point of reference I usually can't follow 11's without hanging.
We did this climb yesterday (Bill Wright lead it of course). It is indeed burly and the pro is less than inspiring although the Aliens jammed in the thin shallow crack left and below the roof slot did hold....
Neither Bill nor I did any jamming to clear the roof, except for jamming our butts into the slot while exiting it. We couldn't find where we could have jammed, Lord knows we looked! but the search for jams lead us to find some hidden hold that proved to be the key to the sequence.
Linked this with Ignominity yesterday. The roof is very burly. Much more powerful than the Tagger roof but not as technical. I found the hand jam that Tony is talking about. Just one spot at the lip allows for a good jam before lurching up into the slot. The pro is decent (not great) but it's draining to place. Didn't do the regular first two pitches, but this was a great link-up.
The climbing above the crux roof is very good as well.
This weekend, the two trees that have been used for rappels for the descent from Sooberb, Long John Wall, etc., have been replaced with camouflaged double bolt anchors. The first set of anchors from the ledge near the top of the cliff are on the slab just left of the tree and easy to overlook. This location was the best spot for the anchors given the quality of the rock and the pull.
By D. Shaw Oct 7, 2007 rating: 5.10+6b+21VII+20E3 5b PG13
First, thanks Chris Archer, if you helped with the rappel anchors. We had to scramble down unroped from the last pitch, but then the raps were great from the big ledge - we saw no anchors at the very top. It took us 3 raps on 60m rope. Second, the comments above correspond with my thought: this last pitch is more like 10d. The 10c rating seems based on 2 people's hands/thoughts. My hands are small and this was very hard/strenuous crux. Even with my small hands, you can jam w/ right hand, just to the right of the V at the lip, unless you've chosen to put a Friend there. But I saw no jam after that - you have to go for the horn inside the wide crack, then move to the edge on the right inside face; then finally, after about 10 hard consecutive moves, it is over. If this is mid-10,then there is nothing on earlier pitches that is 5.10....
My first time on P3 was on follow and no tape gloves. I was able to follow it cleanly but could not comment until I lead it. I was able to red point P3 my first time leading it. Tape gloves make the entire route a letter grade or two easier. Tape gloves were especially nice for P1. As for the roof / crux I would describe the climbing as more body jamming than hand jamming. To start the roof wedge the right side of your body into the crack so that you can place a green and red alien. After you move out on the face jugs and go for the crux at the lip you have a good side pull with your left hand and a #1 Red Camolot hand jam with your right. Once you have this you are golden. Move your left hand up to the jug and then remove your right hand and slide in your #1 Red Camolot. From here jam the left side of your body into the crack and squirm your way up to easier climbing.
Overall this route is a letter or two grade easier than Grandmothers Challenge.
Descent - Downclimb to the south to a deep V-Slot continue down to the large Juniper Trees. Scramble just North of the large Juniper trees to find a camouflaged double bolt anchor. Rap number 2 is at the top of P1 of Sooberb. This rap will take you to a bench that you can walk off to the North if you angle the rope left (North). (60 meter rope, 2 rappels)
Run the 1st and 2nd together makes this a much nicer climb - did it with 70 meter I think my belayer had to make a couple of moves. The crux had no jamming for me. Jugs the whole way through. I put a #2 at the wide slot at the top of the crux.
I won't comment on the rating. Suffice to say, this is not as hard as Grandmother's and no way near as hard as Art's Spar. Both similar grades and roofs.
The Steve Levin guide says the FFA was by Jim Erickson in '72 "onsight solo". Pretty cool. There's a bit of a ledge below the roof, but maybe not enough to keep you off the ground if you blew the solo.
The "onsight solo FFA" phrasing is a little odd. You would think you'd only get one try (with up and downs) if soloing, and any earlier attempt, aid, free, solo or not, would negate the onsight.
By Greg D From: Here Sep 29, 2010 rating: 5.10c6b20VII20E2 5b
Pitch 2 has multiple options. The best line I have found goes up about 10 feet, then moves left around the corner, then remains on the beautiful but a bit runout slab. Resist the temptation to go all the way left to the easy crack or back to the easy crack on the right. Zig zag your way up the slab as long as you can. Great climbing with occasional good gear. (Reminiscent of the second pitch of Where Eagles Dare, but not as hard.)